Barber: Warriors wilt in 118-109 loss to Raptors
TORONTO — Can a building win a basketball game?
Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena, it appeared to be a valid question. There’s never one single thing that decides a contest like this, and there was a lot going on in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Pascal Siakam scorched the Warriors with his baseline-to-baseline athleticism. Raptors center Marc Gasol was a factor, as was Draymond Green’s foul trouble, as was Andre Iguodala’s continuing inability to make a 3-pointer.
But if you were with me in Toronto on Thursday night, you felt the energy that coursed through the arena. It practically levitated inanimate objects. It may well have levitated the Raptors. Their coach, Nick Nurse, suggested the crowd noise had mystical properties.
“Well, it gave us a couple nice bounces, I think,” he said after the game. “We had a couple of shots go in that were kind of eye-openers, let’s say. But the fans obviously were great, they were loud, they were excited.”
And they were at least part of the reason Toronto was able to fend off the Warriors for a stunning 118-109 win.
Honestly, you could feel it growing well before Game 1 started. It sounds like the celebration was pretty epic when Kawhi Leonard’s last-second, four-bounce 3-pointer sank the 76ers and sent the Raptors to these Finals.
“I don’t want San Antonio fans to take this the wrong way; obviously, San Antonio’s great,” Raptors wing player Danny Green, who played in two NBA Finals with the Spurs, had said at Media Day on Wednesday. “But I didn’t see people jumping on top of trucks, streets lights and acting crazy. Luckily, no one got arrested. … We couldn’t get out of the tunnel, and how much of a riot it was, because of the win going to the Finals.”
Toronto was buzzing in the days leading up to Game 1, but that’s to be expected in a city hosting the NBA Finals. The difference emerged Thursday morning, when fans began assembling outside the arena.
Some of them gathered in Jurassic Park, the organic public square that forms outside Scotiabank for big games. Others simply began lining up to get into the building. Workers set up chain-link fencing around the front of the pack, making it look like fans were voluntarily walking into cages. From there, the line snaked along Lake Shore Boulevard. By 1 p.m., after the Warriors’ media period was done, there were a couple hundred people waiting. Keep in mind that they wouldn’t be allowed inside for a good six hours.
All over this urbane and cosmopolitan city, the fever was growing. A couple of movie theater chains opened their doors for watch parties. One of them was practically across the street from my hotel. And as I walked past it Thursday afternoon, someone inside a huge and elaborate dinosaur suit — it had a loud, mechanical roar and a Warriors jersey in its jaws — stomped around the sidewalk, drawing attention to the watch party. When the velociraptor wheeled around to head into the lobby, its tail knocked a fan in the head.
This was the sort of over-the-top spectacle that had gripped Toronto. And it came to a head in Scotiabank Arena as game time approached. When a trio known as the Tenors sang “O Canada,” right after someone else handled “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowd drowned out the professionals in belting out the last line: “Oh, Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”